Pop Culture

Nelly Furtado announced as host of 2024 Juno Awards in Halifax

Nelly Furtado’s pop music comeback is making its way to the Juno Awards.

Organizers named the “I’m Like a Bird” hitmaker as host of next year’s celebration of Canadian music during a press conference Tuesday in Halifax, where the event will air live on CBC from the city’s Scotiabank Centre on March 24.

“It’s going to be spicy. It’s going to be sexy,” Furtado promised in a recent phone interview ahead of the big reveal.

“I’m going to bring my A-game of keeping the festivities rolling along and bringing the fun, fashion and energy.”

It will be the second time Furtado oversees the televised bash, following her stint at the 2007 Junos in Saskatoon where she won five awards including album of the year and artist of the year.

That year, she enthusiastically embraced her wackier side in an evening of comedic hijinks that started with her floating from the rafters in a bird-like, black feathered costume.

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The goofiness continued as she appeared in a series of taped skits as her elder “aunt” Tia Maria who flirted with singer Michael Bublé and appeared in a mock music video for her song “Promiscuous.”

“Oh yeah, I really went there,” Furtado laughed in reflection.

“It was really extra, but it was great.”

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The Victoria native is in the midst of a return to the spotlight after several years spent laying low — and with that comes a very calculated strategy.

Over the summer, the 44-year-old appeared as a vocalist on DJ/producer Dom Dolla’s pounding club track “Eat Your Man,” which saw her spitting subtle lyrical references to her past hits “Say It Right” and “Maneater.”

She followed it up with the sunshiny pop single “Keep Going Up” which reteamed her with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, the powerhouse producer of her 2006 smash album “Loose.” The trio previously recorded the hit “Give It to Me” together.

Furtado is also putting the finishing touches on a new album which she’s certain to tease on the Junos where she’s also slated to perform.

The show lineup includes Toronto rock quartet the Beaches, who recently found popularity on social media with their ex-boyfriend anthem “Blame Brett” and Montreal singer Charlotte Cardin, a breakout Junos star two years ago when she picked up four wins.

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The “spontaneity” of a live broadcast is already fuelling Furtado, who said she loves the improvisation that comes from unexpected moments.

“Literally, if someone from the audience wanted to host, I’d probably let them have at least 10 seconds of spotlight,” she said.

“I love a good jam … I’m a hippie at heart. I am from Vancouver Island. So come one, come all.”

Furtado didn’t backtrack when reminded that the 2023 Junos broadcast was crashed by a topless environmental activist who interrupted presenter Avril Lavigne, who fired off some expletives as security escorted the woman away.

“I thought Avril was great,” Furtado said.

“She did her thing. She kept it under control. But for me, I’d probably be like, ‘What do you want to say?’ Give them the microphone. Cause I’m just a little bit wild like that.”

Aside from the unpredictable, Junos organizers are planning at least one historic moment.

Hip-hop pioneer Maestro Fresh Wes will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, becoming the first rapper to receive the honour.

The Toronto-raised performer, born Wes Williams, landed on the scene with his 1989 single “Let Your Backbone Slide” and went on to win the first rap recording of the year Juno in 1991 for his debut album “Symphony in Effect.”

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He scored further Canadian chart hits in the late 1990s, including the Guess Who-sampled track “Stick To Your Vision.”

“The bottom line is this is big for Canada, this is big for Canadian hip-hop, this is big for Black music in Canada,” Williams said at the Halifax event where he was also confirmed Tuesday as one of the show’s performers.

“I had a slogan: Don’t make records, make history. And we are making history, definitely.”

Calgary sisters Tegan and Sara will be given the humanitarian award from actor Elliot Page for their work as advocates for the LGBTQ+ community. The twin sisters created the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which supports grassroots organizations and social causes.

Juno organizers have other serious questions to consider ahead of next year’s broadcast.

A recent CBC News report that raised doubts about Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous ancestry has pressured the organization to address whether the five-time winner qualified for her trophies, mostly won in categories reserved for Indigenous musicians.

“We really want to take the time to process the information we’re receiving,” Juno president Allan Reid said at the Halifax press conference.

“It’s a complex thing to understand about her Indigneiety and her Canadian citizenship.”

He said the Junos is consulting with its Indigenous Music Advisory Committee, other stakeholders in the Indigenous community and the Junos board.

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“We’ll have some more information on that in the days to come,” said Reid.

Tickets for the Juno Awards go on sale to the public Friday.

— with files from Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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